Making of a biotech hub

Context: The pandemic has given the country an opportunity to evolve from being the pharmacy of the world to being the centre of a revolutionary research.

How has India performed in the field of biotechnology over the years?

  • Change overtime: India has seen an immense improvement in the number and quality of its healthcare facilities, reduction in pregnancy-related deaths, improvement in sanitation and immunisation coverage and has successfully averted several preventable disease epidemics.
  • Department of biotechnology: The Government of India recognised the enormous potential of biotechnology and established a separate department in 1986.
  • Contribution of innovators: The researchers and innovators have shown the way forward by introducing low-cost diagnostics and testing kits, manufacturing PPE kits, masks & therapeutics and now conducting clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The clinical trial for the vaccine developed by the Oxford University and produced by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D, has entered the final phase.
  • Tackling the pandemic: The immediate need was to have our indigenous production of masks, PPE’s, ventilators and most importantly diagnostic kits.
  • In less than 60 days from 100 per cent import we attained self-sufficiency with a potential to export.
  • A vibrant innovation ecosystem: Prime Minister launched the Startup India, Make in India and similar other programmes which have today established a very strong foundation of an ecosystem that has been enabling policy initiatives.
  • The Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC): BIRAC brings innovators and funders on to a common table, enabling ideas to become a reality and facilitate technological advances that make human progress possible.
  • Achievements in biotechnology: the sector employs the best of minds and contributes to the development of generic and affordable medicare.
  • The country accounts for approximately 3 per cent of the global biotech industry.
  • Industry enterprise, a highly-skilled research force backed by government support, has led the biotechnology sector to grow from $1.1 billion in 2003 to a mammoth $64 billion sector in 2019.
  • India has over 2,700 biotech start-ups and are expected to touch the 10,000-mark by 2024.
  • Over 3,500 biotech companies generate employment, contribute to the country’s economy and facilitate a sustainable environment.
  • By 2025, we aim to be worth a $150 billion industry.

Way forward

  • Atma nirbhar: we must motivate our young scientists to continue this path of research and generate new ideas and solutions. “Atma Nirbhar Bharat” will lead to an entrepreneur-friendly ecosystem in the country wherein our energetic youth and their innovations will thrive.
  • The pandemic has provided the country with an opportunity to play the lead role in a global biotech ecosystem. It is time to build on our existing strengths and enter the next stage i.e. from being the pharmacy of the world to being the hub of cutting-edge innovation and research.
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